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Arab Americans Express Concern at Developments in US Middle East Policy

Washington D.C., Feb. 25 — Hala Maksoud, President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation‘s largest grassroots Arab-American organization, today addressed an open letter to President Clinton expressing concern at developments in Middle East policy. Dr. Maksoud responded to reports that the United States is moving towards a formal military alliance with Israel. “We feel that entry into such an alliance would be a serious mistake for our country,” she wrote. Her letter continues: “By bringing the United States into an even closer and more formal alliance with Israel, it will seriously compromise US relations with many, if not all, Arab states. It will serve to confirm the deepest fears among Arabs across the Middle East that American policies are defined in terms of Israel‘s interests and not an evenhanded approach to the region which would benefit the national interests of the United States.”
The open letter also expresses concern at reports that Israel and the United States have signed agreements giving Israeli scientists access to some types of US nuclear technology that are withheld from other nations which have refused to comply with the international non-proliferation regime or sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson told the press that “It is a signal that Israel is a friendly country,” and that “it is not treated in a similar fashion as others on our list of sensitive countries.” Dr. Maksoud wrote that “This clear indication of support for Israel‘s weapons of mass destruction programs is … extremely disturbing and undermines any ground which the United States might have in pressing for non-proliferation with other nations. Moreover, it is an open declaration that the US does indeed employ a double-standard when it comes to Israel, which is indulged in ways few if any other nations would be.”
The open letter concludes that “These policy developments are compounded by highly insensitive and unjustifiable comments made by senior Administration officials after the recent Israeli bombing of civilian targets in Lebanon. These comments appeared to condone Israel‘s deliberate bombing of civilian sites in retaliation for the legitimate resistance of the Lebanese people against Israel occupation troops on Lebanese soil.” These comments “revived a simmering resentment [in the Arab world] which is likely to compound the deep damage done by the nuclear arrangement with Israel, to say nothing of any miliary alliance with Israel,” according to Hala Maksoud. She called on President Clinton to “reconsider the extremely dangerous and ill-advised course your Administration‘s Middle East policy seems to be taking.”
FULL TEXT OF HALA MAKSOUD‘S LETTER TO PRESIDENT CLINTON:
Feb 25, 2000
President William J. Clinton
By Fax: (202) 456-2461
Dear President Clinton:
I write to you as President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation‘s largest Arab-American membership organization, to express our deep concern at recent developments in your Administration‘s Middle East policy. These policy developments, exacerbated by the tone and substance of recent remarks by Administration officials, indicate a marked insensitivity to the rights and concerns of the Arab peoples. By feeding growing anger and resentment in the Arab world, they threaten serious damage to our national interest and the position of the United States in the region.
We are alarmed by reports of a pending military alliance between the United States and Israel, as advocated by the US Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk. We feel that entry into such an alliance would be a serious mistake for our country. By bringing the United States into an even closer and more formal alliance with Israel, it will seriously compromise US relations with many, if not all, Arab states. It will serve to confirm the deepest fears among Arabs across the Middle East that American policies are defined in terms of Israel‘s interests and not an evenhanded approach to the region which would benefit the national interests of the United States. Israel is, after all, still in a state of war with several Arab nations. It maintains an illegal occupation of southern Lebanon in blatant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 425, which the United States helped draft and voted for. The peace process is just that, a process, not an accomplished condition of peace. Almost all of the outstanding issues between Israel and most of its neighbors, including Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian people, remain unresolved. To enter into a formal military alliance with Israel under such circumstances sends a clear negative signal to the entire Arab world. It is one which, in the long run, cannot but harm American interests in the Middle East.
We are also concerned at reports that Israel and the United States have signed agreements giving Israeli scientists access to some types of US nuclear technology that are withheld from other nations which have refused to comply with the international non-proliferation regime or sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson told the press that “It is a signal that Israel is a friendly country,” and that “it is not treated in a similar fashion as others on our list of sensitive countries.” This clear indication of support for Israel‘s weapons of mass destruction programs, which are in clear violation of otherwise sacrosanct international agreements and US policies is extremely disturbing and undermines any ground which the United States might have in pressing for non-proliferation with other nations. Moreover, it is an open declaration that the US does indeed employ a double-standard when it comes to Israel, which is indulged in ways few if any other nations would be. Once again, this policy development and administration rhetoric serves to undermine the position of the United States in the Arab world by appearing to give credence to those who argue that US policy is hopelessly one-sided in favor of Israel and is indifferent to the legitimate rights and concerns of the Arab peoples.
These policy developments are compounded by highly insensitive and unjustifiable comments made by senior Administration officials after the recent Israeli bombing of civilian targets in Lebanon. These comments appeared to condone Israel‘s deliberate bombing of civilian sites in retaliation for the legitimate resistance of the Lebanese people against Israel occupation troops on Lebanese soil. They seemed to suggest that, in spite of Israel‘s illegal occupation of south Lebanon and in spite of the fact that Israel had retaliated against civilians for attacks on its soldiers, it was the Lebanese who were somehow at fault. Secretary Albright went so far as to accuse the Lebanese resistance of violating the April Cease-fire Understanding, which your administration brokered, when all independent observers, including the head of UNIFIL, confirmed that it was Israel which had broken and repudiated the Understanding. The impression once again given was of a US government which bends over backwards to defend and support Israel no matter its behavior and disregards the rights, interests and concerns of Arabs.
It is important that you are aware that even highly cynical observers in the Arab world were shocked and amazed by your Administration‘s response to Israel‘s recent Lebanon bombing, and that it gave rise to unprecedented levels of popular anger. It revived a simmering resentment which is likely to compound the deep damage done by the nuclear arrangement with Israel, to say nothing of any miliary alliance with Israel. We strongly urge you to reconsider the extremely dangerous and ill-advised course your Administration‘s Middle East policy seems to be taking.
Sincerely,
Hala Maksoud, Ph.D.
President